Declaring a state of emergency in Wellington is one tool police may need to stop protesters from entering Parliament grounds if no resolution is reached, the Police Commissioner says.
Andrew Coster is aiming to "explore all reasonable options" before resulting to confrontation and violence to clear the crowd, which is occupying the grounds for a 13th day.
"I think there is a good opportunity to de-escalate and get to a place where the protest can be resolved without the need to bring large-scale violence to a crowd of this size," he told TVNZ's Jack Tame on Q&A this morning.
He said police "don't have a basis for stopping people passing into that area at this point" but "potentially emergency powers could take us down that path if the threshold is reached".
Police currently do not have the powers to stop protesters from bringing in tents and equipment, Coster confirmed.
"We don't have the powers to do that right now.
"We're seeing a situation play out in Canada at the moment, they've had to reach for emergency powers ... recognising their situation is different from ours, that's one path."
But Coster confirmed the current police de-escalation approach is not designed to "have to go down that path".
He admitted that the protest "shouldn't have got to this".
"Some people might say on the first night when the tents started being put up that we should have gone in.
"The level of force we would have had to use to achieve success at that time would have been unacceptable to most New Zealanders, and would have been very subject to criticism in terms of its lawfulness."
He claimed police did not have enough intelligence available prior to the protest to predict its scale.
"It's easy in hindsight to say we ought to have known that this would occur, but I don't believe there was specific enough intelligence available to us to anticipate it was going to be so different to what we have seen previously."
He said police had not been "too soft", but after arresting more than 100 people in one day, "capacity was reached".
Coster fears public backlash - like that seen during the 1981 Springbok Tour - if he orders officers to move in "using batons, probably using tear gas, to clear that crowd".
"I would note that the situation with the Springbok Tour led to a long-term loss of trust and confidence in police because the violence used was so confronting.
"The situation in front of us could readily become the same, with the police enforcement intervention, so I want us to explore all reasonable options before we land up there."
Coster pointed to the more recent protest at Ihumātao as an example of a peaceful resolution being reached.
"Our alternative is one that would have far-reaching consequences, and so, we have to balance the question of law enforcement with keeping the peace."
Despite facing criticism over a lack of enforcement action, Coster said Police Minister Poto Williams has expressed her confidence in him.
"I'm focused on the job at hand, I think that's what people would expect me to do.
"I will be judged by the history of this and what happens in the moment, I need to make the best decisions I can."
Coster said he is not thinking about stepping down as police commissioner "at this stage" and is focused on the job.
Of an estimated 800 vehicles unlawfully parked, just 15 were removed by protesters yesterday after police spoke with them, and two others were towed.
Police are also making note of car registrations "for follow-up enforcement action", and are removing any tents and marquees that do not form part of the "main" protest area.
Police have attended at least six medical events at the protest and are urging anyone parked illegally to remove their vehicle to allow space for emergency services.
The protest has swelled significantly this weekend and a concert was held last night outside Parliament.
The "Rhythm & Rights" concert, organised by Destiny Church-aligned Freedom and Rights Coalition began at 4pm and included performances by Shane Walker, Dam Native, Sweet & Irie and DJ Raw.
Earlier this week the Police Association said confrontation with protesters would be likely if police started towing cars.